Steve Happ Photography Ramblings and dissertations

December 30, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 091230

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Blue Gum Hills Birding

This morning I got up really early, before 6am! I still did not know where I was going to when I jumped in the car, but I drove down the hill and turned towards Minmi. When I got there, a few Eastern Rosellas flew past. I would see a fair few of them of them during the morning. I seemed to disturb a couple of them everywhere I went. There were a pair of Noisy Friarbirds scrabbling around in the Tobacco bush. It was so dark this morning. I had the ISO on 1600, my aperture was at maximum f/5.6 and I had to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/400 to get a decent exposure. Talk about pushing all the limits!

A pair of Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike flew past and I took a few photos of them. This photo is a bit soft but I just liked it for some reason. What do you think? I even bumped up the Noise Reduction to make it even less sharp. I guess it is good to do something different. I am always trying to get photos to look sharper. Why do photos always need to be so sharp? I have no idea, I am just following the rest of the sheep. baaa baaa.

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae)

I spotted some Yellow Thornbills and Grey Fantails flittering around the trees near the creek and then snapped a few shots of this Silvereye. They always seem to take a good photo. Maybe it is the white ring around the eye gives them good contrast.

Silvereye
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

Right after that, I spotted some moving leaves on a tree, but I could not see what was in there. A little bit later a pair of female Satin Bowerbirds came out into the open on another tree and this one was photographed taking a dive.

Satin Bowerbird
Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)

After that, I took a walk along the track that went up the hill to the east. I saw a Bar-shouldered Dove, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Superb Fairy-wren and Red-browed Finches. A pair of Channel-billed Cuckoos flew past making their hideous screeching.

Minmi bird list 30/12/09

Eastern Rosella
Noisy Friarbird
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Yellow Thornbill
Grey Fantail
Silvereye
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Satin Bowerbird
Bar-shouldered Dove
Laughing Kookaburra
Eastern Whipbird
Mistletoebird
Bell Miner
Eastern Yellow Robin
Superb Fairy-wren
Channel-billed Cuckoo
Red-browed Finch

December 13, 2009

Minmi Bird Watching

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Blue Gum Hills Regional Park

I got up early this morning to do some birding at Blue Gum Hills Regional Park before the Snipe count that was going to be held later at Pambalong Nature Reserve. It was a bit quiet at first with a few birds like Noisy Friarbird, Noisy Miner and Eastern Rosella. I walked around the garden near the creek at the bottom of the cemetery. A Bar-shouldered Dove was trying to hide from me and the Welcome Swallows were flying around the trees behind the creek. A Satin Bowerbird flew past and I tried to find him but he took off when I got near him.

I walked up the track past the dam, which was dry. A few immature Golden Whistlers had a good look at me, who were followed by a mature male Rufous Whistler who sang me a lovely song. At the end of my walk I saw a pair of Channel-billed Cuckoos flying past in the distance.

Blue Gum bird list

Noisy Friarbird
Bell Miner
Eastern Rosella
Bar-shouldered Dove
Welcome Swallow
Grey Fantail
Satin Bowerbird
Australian Magpie
Red-browed Finch
Golden Whistler
Rufous Whistler
Silvereye
Superb Fairy-wren
Galah
Crested Pigeon
Channel-billed Cuckoo

Pambalong Nature Reserve

After the Blue Gum stint I drove to the Minmi Hotel to meet up with the Snipe surveyors from the Hunter Bird Observers Club. We drove to a property at the edge of the Pambalong swamp and divided into beaters and counters. The beaters had to walk through the swamp and the counters had to count the number of snipes that came into our areas. Here is a photo of a couple of the beaters walking through the swamp.

Beaters at the Snipe Count

I saw an Azure Kingfisher launch itself into the water and catch something but I could not see what it was. There were a male and female King Parrot flying past, as well as a bunch of Noisy Friarbird. When we got down to the railway track, I did end up spotting 1 Lathams Snipe, but it took off really quickly and made a circle around and came down in the other section of the swamp to the north. About 5 raptors were circling to the north and I think most of them were Swamp Harriers and probably one or two Whistling Kites. We did also see an Australian Hobby at one stage.

The beaters made it back to the counters and then went on the other side of the swamp to try and drive the snipe to the west. We did not see any more snipe but the other saw a total of 18 Lathams Snipe. When we got back to the cars, a boy saw a male Mistletoebird on a branch and we went to have a look at it, and it was just right in front of us.

Mistletoebird
male Mistletoebird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum)

We were quite amazed at the Mistletoebird’s strange behaviour, because it had this strange postures, sort of crouching down and bobbbing up and down and then singing as well. It was quite bizarre.

Mistletoebird

Anyway,it was an interesting morning and here is my final count for the morning at Pambalong Nature Reserve.

Pambalong Nature Reserve – Bird Count

Little Black Cormorant 3
Australian Pelican 1
Eastern Rosella 1
Pacific Black Duck 30
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike 2
Nankeen Night-heron 1
Whistling Kite 1
Mistletoebird 2
Welcome Swallow 10
Great Egret 3
Australian Reed Warbler 2
White-necked Heron 1
Tree Martin 30
Grey Teal 50
Fan-tailed Cuckoo 1
Dollarbird 1
Australian King-parrot 2
White-breasted Woodswallow 1
Azure Kingfisher 1
Noisy Friarbird 7
Red-browed Finch 2
Willy Wagtail 1
Lathams Snipe 18 (whole group)
Australian White Ibis 35
Swamp Harrier 3
Yellow-faced Honeyeater 6
Purple Swamphen 5
Magpie-lark 2
Channel-billed Cuckoo 1
Superb Fairy-wren 2
Australian Hobby 1
Cattle Egret 2
White-faced Heron 5
Bell Miner 5

Recommended Field Guide – The Field Guide to Birds of Australia

September 29, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 090929

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Minmi Bird Photography, 29th September, 2009.

This afternoon I got a chance to go out bush after a few days off. The wind seems to have died down and is coming from the south-east now. Some rain would freshen things up heaps. I walked around the garden first and did not see much, just a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and a pair of Laughing Kookaburra.

I walked around the bush track and there were some Chestnut Teal on the pond and further up along the track, I spotted a Juvenile Rufous Whistler and then later on saw an adult male Rufous Whistler. The photos of them turned out crap, so I am not too happy about that! 🙁

Back near the car park, I spotted a pair of Eastern Rosella, the Noisy Miners started up a racket as the sun went down, and the Australian Magpies were getting ready to go to bed. All in all, it was a pretty lame afternoon with not a single decent photograph. Let’s hope tomorrow is better. doh!

Minmi Bird List 29/9/09

Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Laughing Kookaburra
Chestnut Teal
Welcome Swallow
White-faced Heron
Rufous Whistler
Grey Fantail
bell Miner
Noisy Miner
Eastern Rosella
Australian Magpie

September 25, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 090925

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Minmi Bird Photography 25th September, 2009.

The wind had dropped off this morning. I was a bit late getting up this morning – 5:45am! What a lazy person I am. This morning I set off to Minmi because I surmised that all the migratory waders had been blown off to New Zealand. I parked near the Cemetery at Minmi and had a look at the garden. There were some Silvereyes hanging around the Tobacco Bush again. A couple of Brown Cuckoo-dove were feeding on the cassia trees, and some Red-browed Finch were flittering away around the smaller bushes.

Silvereye
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

I went for a walk around the bush track. There were heaps of Bell Miner as well as a few White-browed Scrubwren near some dried up creeks. I spotted a Scarlet Honeyeater. It wasn’t hard because they stick out like sore thumbs with their bright red head and chest.

Scarlet Honeyeater
Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta)

The Grey Goshawk (Accipiter novaehollandiae) glides on drooped, downwards wings and have a rounded tail at the end. To distinguish from the Grey Falcon, the shape of the Grey Goshawk’s wing is quite apparent, the grey falcon having long pointed wings whereas the grey goshawk has shorter rounded wings. The Grey Goshawk habitat is mainly forests and prefers near coastal wet forests. They are distributed mainly around the coast of Eastern and Northern Australia.

Scarlet Honeyeater
Scarlet Honeyeater

Minmi bird list, 25/9/09

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Galah
Australian Wood Duck
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Australian King-parrot
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Red-browed Finch
Grey Fantail
Silvereye
Australian Magpie
Superb Fairy-wren
Eastern Whipbird H
Bell Miner
Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo
White-browed Scrubwren
Laughing Kookaburra
Chestnut Teal

September 10, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 090910

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Minmi Bird Photography, 10th September 2009

For a change I got up at six o’clock this morning. So I headed out to Blue Gum Hills Regional Park at Minmi, just west of Newcastle. I got there so early that the gates were closed, so I parked near the cemetery. I walked over the bridge to the garden area, hoping to see some bowerbirds, but there were none around. I spotted a Brown Cuckoo-dove feeding on what I thought were cassia tree seeds. I have also seen them feeding on the Tobacco Bush fruit, so they seem to like the introduced tree/bush species. A Fan-tailed Cuckoo was in the same area, as well as a bunch of White-browed Scrubwren, and some Grey Fantails. One of them sang me a song. Lots of birds are doing that lately. I feel so special. 🙂

Grey Fantail
Grey Fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa)

After that, I headed off along the bush track past the water hole. I found quite a few new patches of bush that I had not seen before and near a creek, I had another bird entertain me with a song, the Scarlet Honeyeater. Check out the tongue on this bird. This is a male, of course. The female is very plain looking.

Scarlet Honeyeater
male Scarlet Honeyeater (Myzomela sanguinolenta)

This male Spotted Pardalote came and visited me as well in the creek bed. This is the nominal race, punctatus. Every time he heard the camera shutter go off, he would cock his head and listen.

Spotted Pardalote
male Spotted Pardalote (Pardalotus punctatus punctatus)

I carried on along the track on the other side of the water hole, and found a clearing where there were some Bell Miners, Red-browed Finch, White-cheeked Honeyeaters and I managed to see an Eastern Whipbird, but, alas, another out of focus shot. 🙁
But a Laughing Kookaburra obliged me by sitting up nicely and posing for me.

Laughing Kookaburra
Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

That was about it for the day. I went past the picnic area and had a chat to the Park Ranger, and then had a look at the Satin Bowerbird’s bower. He was still there and had heaps more blue objects. Poor thing still hasn’t found himself a lady. I feel sad for him. 🙁 Does anyone know any nice lady Satin Bowerbirds that needs a man who is very good at scavenging? Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I saw a female White-throated Treecreeper. You can tell the female by the orange patch on the cheek. Bummer that the photos weren’t so good, or I would show you. doh!

Minmi bird list, 10/9/09

Brown Cuckoo-dove
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Fan-tailed Cuckoo
White-browed Scrubwren
Grey Fantail
Silvereye
Satin Bowerbird – male
Superb Fairy-wren
Yellow Thornbill
Australian White Ibis
Spotted Pardalote
Scarlet Honeyeater
Laughing Kookaburra
Bell Miner
Red-browed Finch
Eastern Whipbird
White-cheeked Honeyeater
Grey Goshawk
White-throated Treecreeper – female

July 31, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 090730

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Bird Photography at Blue Gum Hills Regional Park, 30th July, 2009.

I had a struggle getting out of bed this morning, but eventually I dragged myself out of the cot about half past seven, dragged on my clothes, ate some Weet-bix and headed off to Minmi to have a look at the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park. I walked down to the garden, hoping to see the Bowerbirds again and get some good photos of them. But they were nowhere to be seen. Instead there were quite a few Golden Whistlers making beautiful music and flittering around in the trees.

Golden Whistler
male Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis)

Further on over the creek I heard a commotion and a Grey Goshawk was flying away from some birds that were harrassing him. He alighted into a tall tree and stayed there for a while before flying away off to the east. He was a very lightly coloured bird, so I am thinking it was a pale morph, but I doubt it. Maybe it was the light striking it, or its just a lightly coloured bird or an immature bird. I will do a bit of reading on it to see what the story is. We do not have the pale or white morph in our area, so that is unlikely.

Golden Whistler
male Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis)

I took some photos of an Australian Magpie feeding on the ground and later on I had a pair of Brown Cuckoo-Dove, but I struggled to get decent shots of them as there was lots of shrubs in the way.

Minmi Bird List, 30/7/09

Brown Gerygone
Golden Whistler
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Grey Goshawk
Australian Magpie
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Australian Raven
Golden-headed Cisticola

July 24, 2009

Blue Gum Hills 090724

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Bird Photography at Blue Gum Hills, Minmi, 24th July, 2009.

This morning I took off to Blue Gum Hills Regional Park at Minmi, west of Newcastle. The weather was partly sunny and partly cloudy and the temperature was about 15 degrees Celsius. The wind was coming from the South West at about 15 knots. First up I spotted a male Satin Bowerbird up in a tree and he was breaking off some twigs. Then he flew off down into some bushes. The spot he flew into was a spot I had suspected was something going on in. Well I snuck into the undergrowth and the male had already flown off. And then I found his bower. It was a beautiful arch with about a dozen blue pegs scattered outside as decorations. What a good forager he is. He is sure to impress some lady Satin Bowerbird for sure. Here is a photo. Not a very good one because I could not get a good view with my big lens. Hopefully I will get a better photo with a wider lens some other time.

Satin Bowerbird bower
Satin Bowerbird bower

After that, I carried on over the bridge into the garden and spotted a Red-browed Finch chomping on some grass seeds. Again, its not a great photo but it is worth showing because of the behaviour.

Red-browed Finch
Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis)

There were no further Bowerbirds but the Silvereyes were feeding on the Tobacco Bush fruit. As far as I can tell, there were two races – lateralis and westernensis. Zosterops lateralis lateralis and Zosterops lateralis westernensis. The lateralis is the race that migrates from Tasmania to New South Wales in winter. The westernensis is the local race.

Silvereye
Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis lateralis)

This photo is of a pair of Silvereyes eating the Tobacco Bush fruit. You can’t really see the diagnostic markings on this photo so well. But the lateralis race has a rufous flank and whitish under the throat, whereas the local westernensis race has lemon coloured under the throat and a lighter flank. Some books call the local race familiaris but I don’t know about that. Its all a bit confused at the moment, depending which book you look at.

Silvereye
Silvereye

I went around the park another time, but nothing much was happening. The ranger said that a Cicadabird had been seen last week so I kept my eye out for one but did not see any.

Blue Gum Hills Bird Species List, 24/7/09

Australian Magpie
Satin Bowerbird
Silvereye – race lateralis and westernensis
Noisy Miner
Crested Pigeon
Laughing Kookaburra
Grey Fantail

July 12, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 090711

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Bird Photography at Blue Gum Hills Regional Park, 11-12th July, 2009

Yesterday morning I went to the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park at Minmi, west of Newcastle. As soon as I got over the bridge into the garden, I saw this female Satin Bowerbird in the tobacco plant, eating the fruit off it.

Satin Bowerbird
female Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)

I continued up the path and saw quite a few Bar-shouldered Dove. It was the first time I had photographed these birds.

Bar-shouldered Dove
Bar-shouldered Dove (Geopelia humeralis)

I did a walk around the garden and then came back to the same spot where I saw the first Satin Bowerbird, and there were six female Satin Bowerbirds on the ground feeding. I am not sure what they were feeding on – most probably privet fruits. But this one has a mouthful of grass or something very green.

Satin Bowerbird
female Satin Bowerbird

There were also a pair of Brown Cuckoo-dove feeding on the Tobacco plant fruit.

Brown Cuckoo-dove
Brown Cuckoo-dove (Macropygia amboinensis)

Towards the creek I saw a Grey Goshawk but he managed to fly off before I could photograph him. I did a circuit of the bush track and saw nothing but this Pied Currawong. Pied Currawong are of Order: Passeriformes and Family: Cracticidae. They are very similar to the Grey Currawong which are not in our area.

Pied Currawong
Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina)

12th July

This morning I went back hoping to see the Regent Bowerbirds and get some photographs of them. As soon as I got there I saw a male Satin Bowerbird on a tree in the cemetery.

male Satin Bowerbird
male Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)

I walked further along the track and there were a pair of male Regent Bowerbirds with a whole bunch of Australian King-Parrots.

male Regent Bowerbird
male Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus)

A female Regent Bowerbird was in the same tree as the males. I think they were eating the buds from the tree.

female Regent Bowerbird
female Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus)

Blue Gum Hills Regional Park Bird List 11-12/7/09

Australian King-Parrot
Bar-shouldered Dove
Satin Bowerbird
Regent Bowerbird
Silvereye
Grey Goshawk
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Pied Currawong
Eastern Rosella
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Australian Raven
Grey Butcherbird
Grey Fantail

July 10, 2009

Minmi Bird Photography 090707

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Bird Photography at Minmi, 7th July, 2009.

On Tuesday morning I went to the Blue Gum Hills Nature Reserve at Minmi, west of Newcastle. To get there, you have to drive towards the Freeway from Wallsend and turn right to Minmi the last roundabout before you hit the Freeway. At the traffic lights at Minmi, turn right onto Minmi Road and about half a kilometre on the right is the Blue Gum Hills Park. I was halfway there when it started to rain, but I thought I may as well keep going and find out where it was at least. When I got there, there were heaps of people there for the HBOC Tuesday Birdwatching outing.

We walked around the track to the east of the car park. I did not bring my camera, as it was still raining. And water is not real good for cameras. There were some honeyeaters around, a few Golden Whistlers, thornbills, and a few other birds. There were a few flowering trees, so it is quite a reasonable spot for birdwatching, but maybe in better weather. I will be going back for sure when it is not raining, doh!

After the obligatory morning tea, a few of us went down towards the cemetery and followed the park track to the west. It was still raining so I left the camera behind again. Later on, I was severely regretting it, as we spotted a male Regent Bowerbird, then another one, a few females, and a few pairs of Satin Bowerbirds. The male Regent Bowerbird was in spectacular colour. We also saw some King Parrots and a Brown Cuckoo-dove.

Royal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill (Platalea regia)

After that, a bunch of us drove over, or under the freeway to the Pambalong Reserve. I think someone counted about eight Black Swans sitting on nests. There was also an Australasian Shoveler diving for food. All of a sudden someone spotted a Grey Goshawk sitting on a branch, and then it flew off. I tried to take some shots but my settings were all wrong so the photos turned out rubbish. doh! Further down the road we saw a White-bellied Sea-eagle fly past. In the reeds in the swamp there were Red-browed Finch, Australian Reed Warbler and Willy Wagtails. On the swamp there were more Black Swans, Chestnut Teal, and Australasian Grebe.

We saw a Royal Spoonbill and a couple of Australian White Ibis in a paddock, an Australian Hobby on the power line, a couple of Whistling Kites and some Eastern Rosella.

Minmi Bird List, 7/7/09

Golden Whistler
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Regent Bowerbird
Satin Bowerbird
Australian King-Parrot
Brown Cuckoo-dove
Black Swan
Australasian Shoveler
Grey Goshawk
White-bellied Sea-eagle
Red-browed Finch
Magpie-lark
Willy Wagtail
Grey Fantail
Australasian Grebe
Australian Hobby
Eastern Rosella
Whistling Kite
Australian Reed Warbler

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